Fox News Columnist Roughed Up by Wolverine Leak

wolverine_friedman_screenshot3Roger Friedman, who writes the “Fox 411” entertainment column for the Fox News web site, may or may not have been fired over the weekend for a piece published Thursday that included a glowing review of the leaked X-Men Origins: Wolverine workprint — produced by fellow News Corp. (s nws) property 20th Century Fox.

Update: Friedman has left Fox News, according to a statement.

The piece itself has since been pulled from the web site, but archived copies remain:

Right now, my “cousins” at 20th Century Fox are probably having apoplexy…But everyone can relax. I am, in fact, amazed about how great “Wolverine” turned out…I was completely riveted to my desk chair in front of my computer.

Friedman went on to exclaim that he could easily find all sorts of top movies and television online to stream and watch. “It’s so much easier than going out in the rain!” he gushed.

Welcome to the 21st century, Mr. Friedman.

The column certainly hit the nail on the head with the “apoplexy” comment. Cue official reprimand:

We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy.

The statement says that Fox News has fired Friedman for the gaffe. Or did they?

Friedman’s Friday column was duly posted online. Friedman later told Daily Variety that he hadn’t, in fact, been fired. And a meeting was reportedly scheduled for today to give the columnist a chance to argue for his job. Some points he might like to make?

  • It doesn’t look good for the independence of Fox News if bad news for a sister company is underreported or censored. In fact, it looks more like corporate synergy and media consolidation run amok when instead of being “fair and balanced,” reporting must hew to the movie studio party line.
  • While the corporate overlords cited the ethic that reporters shouldn’t break the law in service of a story, downloading the workprint wasn’t a criminal offense — it’s a civil matter. Yet felony battery in pursuit of a parking space comes straight from obsequious Fox News anchor Shep Smith’s playbook.
  • More relevant, The New York Post, another News Corp. property, was busted for reviewing a leaked workprint of Passion of the Christ back in 2003 — a film for which 20th Century Fox had first-look distribution rights.

The unfinished film has been downloaded over a million times, even as 20th Century Fox fires off takedown notices left and right and has enlisted the help of the FBI in finding the source. Australian effects company Rising Sun Pictures denies any involvement in the leak, arguing that no one in the company had access to a full-length version. Speculation has also included a Rupert Murdoch hater and even the studio itself.

As for box office impact, the film’s chances can’t be hurt by all this publicity.

Screen capture from Crooks and Liars.